The problems stemming from the Syrian conflict are overwhelming; the numbers of refugees and IDP’s are enormous, and growing every day.
Recognizing the unsustainable strain that the refugee population is putting on the Governments in the region, and also acknowledging the tremendous suffering and wasted potential in the refugee camps, we are dedicated to examining some of these incredibly challenging problems, raising the awareness level throughout the world, and also offering potential solutions.
In June of 2015, we launched our first initiative to begin addressing the Syrian Refugee Crisis by sponsoring a one-day conference in Beirut, Lebanon. The co-sponsors included the Government of Lebanon and the World Bank, with the United Nations, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and Georgetown University joining us as partners for the conference. We attracted support from a broad range of public, private and government representatives, examining the depth of the problem from academic, government, and corporate perspectives and exploring possible solutions: all looking for a path forward.
We at Global Alliance propose the creation of a 21st Century Civilian Construction Corps for the displaced Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, specifically for young men who have been driven out of their country by the violence and destruction, and who find themselves without homes, jobs or hope, trapped in desperate living conditions.
A key part of our mission is to offer young people hope for a better future, and this project is being modeled after a program that U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt put in place during the Great Depression of the 1930’s which had similar goals. During that period, the United States had an unemployment rate that far exceeded 25%, and President Roosevelt initiated several work projects; one of the most successful was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a program that took thousands of “down and out” unemployed young men off the streets and failing farms and put them to work – building projects that are still in use today. This program was successful in the United States, and a similar program can help relieve the grave situation that currently exists with the Syrian refugees. A project such as this would greatly lessen the strain on the local governments, and also provide lasting benefits to the host countries as well.
Over a nine year period, the CCC employed about 3 million young men, ages 17 – 28, providing them with food, clothing, and shelter in exchange for the work they were doing. The Civilian Conservation Corps gave young men a sense of dignity and purpose, and it also gave them job skills. The CCC projects, which were set up in every state across the nation, also had a strong impact on the environment; over 2 billion trees were planted, numerous public roadways were constructed, and over 800 parks were created all over the United States – providing outdoor recreation sites that millions of U.S. citizens continue to enjoy today.
You can help us make this program a constructive part of the solution for some of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians living in desperate circumstances among the four countries surrounding Syria. These work projects will provide an opportunity for these young men to improve their living situation and at the same time contribute something positive to the host countries – parks, roads, bridges and clean beaches that will endure well beyond the day when peace is achieved in Syria and these young men are able to return home.
“In 1933, with the entire country in the grips of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt formulated sweeping plans for emergency disaster relief. Jobless men everywhere struggled to earn enough money to buy food for their families while hundreds of thousands of young men from economically stricken households searched in vain for work.
Against this bleak backdrop, Roosevelt announced the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an agency aimed at conserving the Nation’s depleted natural resources and putting unemployed youthto work.”
Christine E. Pfaff, “The Bureau of Reclamation’s Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy:1933–1942” U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, February 2010
Global Alliance has launched a special education project specifically designed to assist young girls in the Syrian refugee camps. Partnering with Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, our new initiative is also supported by AMIDEAST and HP.
The purpose of the project is two-fold: (1) to connect Girl Scouts in the Greater Washington DC area, one-on-one, with Syrian Refugee girls in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq – letting these girls know that indeed someone does “care” about them and reinforcing their dignity and self-worth as a person; and (2) to teach English language skills and critical thinking skills directly related to consuming information in the media – exposing Syrian refugee girls to independent media professionals who offer a vision for a possible career path; inspiring a desire for further educational studies in media; and enhancing employment potential.
The Girl Scouts – committed to “Building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place” – are natural partners for Global Alliance’s Syrian Refugee Girls Education Project; their founder Juliette Gordon Low’s goal was to have the organization become “the magic thread which links the youth of the world together.” Our Global Alliance/Girl Scouts program utilizes the existing U.S. Girl Scout badge system – supporting the Truth Seeker badge, which aims to empower girls with the skills required to discern information. In pursuing this badge, the American Girl Scout troops will aim to better understand the Syrian refugee story, and particularly the stories of girls their age. All girls become better critical information consumers by learning how to evaluate resources, cross-check expert statements, and ultimately become what the Girl Scouts call a “citizen journalist.”
We are establishing local “learning centers,” where multiple small groups of 10 to 12 teen-age Syrian refugee girls can attend regularly scheduled classes under the supervision of a qualified project staff person or volunteer, and multiple courses will be run continuously throughout the year, in different locations. The intent is for the girls to be able to consume information in both English and Arabic, and to analyze the content of the information. HP has generously provided lap top computers for use by the girls at these learning centers. In addition, Global Alliance will also provide access to HP LIFE, a program of the HP Foundation, as part of the training offered. This innovative training program offers free online courses in seven languages, including Arabic and French, that provide basic IT and business skills training to empower users, many from underserved communities, to raise themselves up and create a better life.
Jordan has been selected as the country location for the pilot phase of the Syrian Refugee Girls Education Project – in and around the capital city of Amman – where the refugees are located in both designated camps as well as dispersed in urban areas. This will provide an opportunity to implement the project under differing conditions and further allow us to most effectively replicate the program throughout Jordan and the other countries in the region that are hosting Syrian refugees.
Global Alliance is collaborating with AMIDEAST – a leading U.S. non-profit that specializes in providing education and training services across the Middle East and North Africa – as its local implementing partner. Founded in 1951 and with 12 offices throughout the region, AMIDEAST’s support for the project will include providing on-the-ground work space; logistical support; training in English language, critical thinking and other interpersonal skills; and follow up assistance. We will be working with the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development and also coordinating with UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, to identify the most appropriate recipients.
We are working with local media companies and will be sending production crews and media professionals to conduct workshops at the learning centers: documenting oral histories from the girls about their experiences; introducing the concept of a vibrant media sector; and exposing the girls to job possibilities within that sector. The girls will read and analyze newspapers and also hear from top level journalists, who will visit and talk about their work. Where internet is available, we will also conduct social media training, and we are recruiting celebrities to help reinforce the importance of a transparent information environment.
The oral histories captured in the refugee camps certainly will help the Girl Scouts in the United States earn their Truth Seeker badge. But, most important, this project will raise awareness about the situations faced by young refugee girls in the countries surrounding Syria; enhance these young girls’ skills; and hopefully forge constructive relationships that will last for many years to come.